D-Day, 70 years later: ‘Look up’!
Under a grim gray sky, 156,000 Allied troops met the Nazi war machine head-on along a 50-mile stretch of Normandy coast 70 years ago today.
We commemorate D-Day, June 6, 1944, comforted in knowing the outcome of this massive, brutal battle that turned the tide in the war and relegated to history Adolf Hitler’s mad dream of a 1,000-year Reich. But the Allied forces on that day had no similar assurance. They couldn’t have predicted the outcome. They knew only what they had to do.
It’s unimaginable to the civilian mind what these brave troops endured in the cross hairs of 105,000 German soldiers dug in above the beaches in machine gun nests. Casualties among the Allies totaled more than 10,300 (to Germany’s estimated 4,000-9,000).
By June 11, the beachheads were secured, clearing the way for more than 300,000 Allied troops and 100,000 tons of military equipment. By Aug. 25, the Allies liberated Paris. In May 1945, the fascist forces that swept Europe were finished.
Remarkable endurance and human spirit won the day on Omaha Beach along with something else. President Reagan referred to it in a D-Day speech on June 6, 1984: “And so, the night before the invasion, when Col. (Robert Lee) Wolverton asked his parachute troops to kneel with him in prayer, he told them do not bow your heads, but look up so you can see God and ask His blessing in what we’re about to do.”
Then as now, America must always look up. And never for a moment bow.